jane and her mother arrived at their new home at dusk.
the carriage that had brought them drove off.
jane looked up at the darkening sky and at the tall towers of the new home.
bats were flying in the sky.
“that is a tall building,” jane said to her mother. “why is it so tall?”
“because it is a castle,” jane’s mother replied.
“a castle!” jane exclaimed. “i thought castles only existed in stories!”
“well, now you know better,” her mother replied.
jane and her mother settled into a routine in the castle.
the castle had only two servants - a gamekeeper and a cook. jane had to make her own bed in the morning, and dress herself.
the gamekeeper kept the cook supplied with animals from the marshlands surrounding the castle - furry and scaly beasts of uncertain provenance that jane did not like the look of.
jane did not care to partake of the flesh of the animals the gamekeeper brought to the cook, so she subsisted on porridge and oatcakes, which meant she did not much look forward to mealtimes.
jane’s mother spent most of her time as she always had, staring into space and looking out of windows.
jane found a couple of old rooms filled with books, and she was initially encouraged to read them by her mother, so that jane might be kept occupied and out of mischief. not that she had ever been a mischievous child.
jane arranged all the books into neat piles, and began reading them one by one.
one day jane came down to the large gloomy room where her mother usually sat staring into space.
jane asked her mother, “are you a vampire?”
“am i a vampire? no, of course not, whatever gave you that idea?”
“i have been reading a book about vampires. i had never heard of such creatures before, and i thought perhaps you might be one.”
“no, i am not a vampire, and so far as i know neither are you.”
on the next day jane came down to the large gloomy room again and asked her mother if she was a witch.
“no,” her mother answered shortly.
“i have reading a book about witches, and i thought perhaps you were one,” jane explained.
on the following days came down to the room and asked her mother if she was a courtesan, a princess, a ghoul, a water sprite, a succubus, an heiress, a poisoner, an empress, a pirate queen, a bandit queen, an abbess, and other things that she, jane, had encountered in her systematic reading.
one day jane came down to ask her mother if she was a werewolf, but her mother forestalled her by announcing,
“i have had quite enough of your nonsense. a carriage will be here shortly to take you away. go and pack your bag.”
jane considered this. “can i take some books with me?”
“i suppose you can take whatever you can put in the bag, or choose to carry under your arms. i am not hiring a special conveyance to carry books.”
so it was that jane found herself outside under a threatening gray sky, with her clothing, five or six volumes, and a couple of oatcakes the cook had provided her.
the carriage arrived.
the driver, a surly looking fellow with a black mustache like a bandit’s, helped jane into the carriage and they drove off.